Louden on Autism Q & A: The Safe Person

Autism Q&A
560 315 Paul Louden

Welcome to the Louden on Autism Q & A. This week, I’m back to answer a question submitted by a website visitors to shed light on some of the most important questions about autism. I receive questions every day, and I want to make sure that the answers to these important questions are being shared with all of you.

 

Please know that these are my opinions and my answers come from my research and my own personal experiences. Of course, each situation is different. All of us as people are different. And no two people with or without autism should be treated the same exact way.

 

This week, I received a question about why a grandmother’s grandson was insulting her often, when he is very nice and polite to many other people.

 

QUESTION

 

My 22 year-old grandson, who is on the spectrum, has beaten many odds like graduating high school and working for two years. He was the employee of the month for May! He loves work, but when home he shuts himself into his room & plays games online with people. I’ve always been his advocate & cheering squad but he’s very rude, insulting & mean to just me! His psychiatrist says I’m his “safe” person! What does this mean?

 

ANSWER

 

That’s difficult. Typically when an autistic person is “rude” to someone it’s usually a case of them not intending to be rude, but being interpreted as rude despite that. That can happen fairly easily if it’s around someone they feel “safe” with because they finally get the chance to relax from the high effort of trying to maintain their “appearance” throughout the day.

 

If he plays a lot of online games, he may have recognized that gamers often insult and “trash talk” each other as a means of bonding (though it’s not always this, and can just as easily be intended as offensive). It may be that he’s trying to form connections with you in a way he’s recognized elsewhere and it may take some time and effort for him to learn that such things aren’t appropriate except in very specific circumstances, or possibly even that what he’s doing isn’t the same as what’s happening elsewhere. Subtleties and nuance can be very hard for someone on the spectrum to pick up, so the difference between “playful and good-natured” ribbing and actual insults can be lost.

 

Because of the other disorders, it could also extend beyond that. It’s important to remember that not everything is autism, and it may be that something about his living situation or place in life is causing him physical or mental discomfort, and this is a way he releases that pressure.

 

My strongest suggestion is to talk with his psychiatrist more about the behavior. As they’re the person with the most direct knowledge of what may be going on, they may be able to guide you toward more positive behavior.

 

Thanks for reading. Check back soon for another Q&A.

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